This past week, the Republican Party held its 40th national convention in Tampa, Florida, where more than 2,000 delegates nominated Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to be their standard bearers for president and vice president.
I watched much of the convention on C-SPAN, because although I disagree with just about everything Republicans stand for, I strongly believe in a free exchange of ideas.
At press time, Mitt Romney had yet to address the convention, but most of the other scheduled speakers had. I didn’t care for Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech. To say that it was dishonest would be an understatement. I can’t respond to everything Ryan said here, but I’ll cover a few lowlights.
“I have never seen opponents so silent about their record, and so desperate to keep their power,” Ryan said early on. “They’ve run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division are all they’ve got left.”
Fear and division? Those are good words to describe how Republicans like to campaign. Contrary to what Ryan says, Democrats have many ideas for strengthening our country. This week, Democrats came together in Charlotte to approve a platform that will lay out the party’s vision for a stronger America – including a plan to lessen money’s influence in politics. The platform were expected to call for passage of the Disclose Act and a constitutional amendment to overturn Supreme Court decisions that wrongly equate corporations with people and money to speech.
Ryan also had the gall to accuse Democrats of being fiscally irresponsible: “They have no answer to this simple reality: We need to stop spending money we don’t have. It’s not that hard,” he said.
All I could do when I heard that pronouncement was laugh. It’s not that hard, eh? When Paul Ryan’s party controlled Congress and the White House, they spent like there was no tomorrow. They speedily wiped out the surplus that President Clinton had left them and kept on going. No exaggeration: Since he was elected to the U.S. House more than a decade ago, Paul Ryan has voted to add a staggering total of $6.8 trillion to our national debt. That’s right, $6.8 trillion. Trillion, with a T! Most of that debt was created during the Bush years, when Republicans pushed through multiple rounds of budget-busting tax cuts, overhauled Medicare Part D without paying for it, and financed the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan on America’s credit card.
What’s more, Ryan’s disingenuously named “Path to Prosperity” budget would pile on even more debt, because Republicans have made it plainly clear they are unwilling to either reduce defense spending or raise taxes. The position they’ve adopted means we’d definitely be spending money we don’t have have under a Romney/Ryan administration – even if we completely shredded our safety net.
Ryan also characterized the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as a failure during his speech. He didn’t mention that in 2009, just after ARRA had passed with bipartisan support, Ryan sent letters to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis asking for ARRA funds on behalf of two companies based in his state, Wisconsin. Guess he doesn’t want anyone to know about that.
And, like many other speakers who had preceded him at the podium, Ryan took a swipe at President Obama for pointing out that all businesses benefit from public investments in roads, bridges, schools, universities, the Internet, and other services.
The president was correct to say that nobody makes it on their own in America. All successful entrepreneurs make use of the infrastructure that the taxpayers of this country have paid for. America is where it is today because previous generations patriotically pooled their resources to get things done. This progressive tradition dates all the way back to the founding of our nation. Unfortunately, it’s a tradition that Republicans want to upend. They claim we’ll all be better off if we dismantle our public services and sell off our public infrastructure. They’re wrong.
This week, I was in Charlotte for the 2012 Democratic National Convention, representing Washington as a delegate for Barack Obama. Look for my thoughts on the DNC in next week’s Reporter.
Andrew Villeneuve, a Redmond High graduate, is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute.He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.